Let’s face it, Damien Chazelle is probably one of the best directors going around today. Add the fact that he is still really young as well as a filmmaker. Whiplash is absolutely excellent, and La La Land was an incredible musical. Thus naturally, First Man was a really anticipated film for me and add to that the fact that Ryan Gosling would be portraying Neil Armstrong. This just seemed like it would be an amazing feature, so naturally I wanted to catch this one in IMAX. I think the film is good technically, for its performances and content, and for the portrayal of the moon landing. However, the films length and pacing were problematic for me.
The film is about the life of Neil Armstrong, the famed astronaut who became the first man to land on the moon in 1969. The film covers other preceding portions of Armstrong’s life, including the loss of his young daughter, his relationship with his family, his early work and training with NASA, his general mindset and personality, and all the events going on leading up to his eventual moon landing. The film also stars Claire Foy as his wife, Kyle Chandler, and Jason Clarke.
I felt like the pacing and length of the film were the real problems with the film. its a good film technically and hardly puts a foot wrong but its a slow build and takes its time to get to the Moon landing. Gosling plays his usual quiet natured sulky lead, I’m not sure if this was an accurate portrayal of how Armstrong was but I had no problem with it. The performances were good otherwise. The leads may not get end of the year nominations or wins but I think they did a very respectful job in their roles. I expect the film to get its technical nominations as its sound design and cinematography are as good as can be.
The film has all the ingredients to make it great but doesn’t connect with me quite like Chazelle’s other works in Whiplash and La La Land. It doesn’t have that emotional connectivity like those works did, much like Neil’s emotional block with his wife and kids. Its worth a watch to see the incredible moon landing experience and learn about the life about an American pioneer otherwise. Its a film that’s steeped in tragedy and loss and great wonder and achievement.